Belfast Telegraph

Mallusk incinerator plan: Owners who fear vesting vow not to sell land

Local resident Ian Montgomery who is objecting to the siting of an incinerator on the outskirts of Mallusk
Local resident Ian Montgomery who is objecting to the siting of an incinerator on the outskirts of Mallusk

By Harriet Crawford

Residents living next door to a proposed super-incinerator on the outskirts of Belfast have insisted they will not sell their land under any circumstances.

Landowners opposed to the scheme in Mallusk have also spoke of their fear at what they believe could be a threatened compulsory land purchase.

But a spokesman for the consortium behind the massive incinerator plan insisted that they wish to acquire land by agreement.

Residents on the Boghill Road voiced their distress at receiving letters on behalf of waste management authority Arc21 to initiate negotiations over the vesting of their land.

A decision on the £250m project by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan is expected before Christmas.

If the Wembley Stadium-sized incinerator is approved, the local road network will have to be restructured to enable a daily traffic of approximately 300 heavy goods vehicles, including bin lorries and those transporting hazardous materials, according to local community group NoArc21.

The road would be widened to seven metres and parts of it would have to be straightened to enable the transport of waste to the incinerator, according to Colin Buick, chairman of the group.

A spokesman for Arc21 said: "In all correspondence with the landowners it is made clear that arc21 is seeking to acquire the land by agreement through negotiation."

But farmer Ian Montgomery said: "Many Boghill Road residents are extremely upset and worried that they face the prospect of having to sell their land with little or no choice.

"For Arc21 to all of a sudden issue letters initiating a process to vest our lands is absolutely unacceptable and has only served to intimidate landowners."

Thirteen landowners first received letters of intent from Northern Ireland's Land and Property Services on behalf of Arc21 in March, and then again this month.

The most recent letter said: "arc21 is now seeking to enter into negotiations with landowners with the intention of acquiring the necessary land by agreement on a fair market value basis".

Yesterday, 12 of them responded saying that they do not to negotiate and have no wish to sell their land.

Their reply stated: "I refer to your letter of 2/10/14 with regard to the above project and proposed road improvements which require acquisition of lands under my ownership.

"Please note that I will not agree to the sale of any such lands under any circumstances."

Beef farmer Ivan Rea and landowners Seamus Corey and Brian Stewart voiced their opposition to the scheme at the protest by the Hightown Quarry yesterday.

Mr Stewart's lands directly abut the proposed site. He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I felt shocked and horrified when I got the vesting letter. I am totally against the project - it will devalue my land and my home."

South Antrim MP William McCrea described the vesting letters on behalf of Arc21 as "overbearing" and "heavy-handed".

"The minister has not made his decision, so why is there a notice of vesting coming out?" he said.

He is opposed to the principle of the plan, considering the chosen site to be wrong when a viable alternative of the Bombardier waste facility exists.

"Ministers have to make the decision knowing that the locals are totally opposed to this," he said.

The project would be funded by ratepayers of a number of councils involved with the project. Mr McCrea considered it unfair for a decision to be made by councils before new councillors are voted in April, potentially leaving them "a heritage of 25 years of debt".

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said: "I do not think this is a sustainable project. People are rightly aggrieved by what could be imposed on the area. We will be lobbying the Environment Minister and giving him our very firm view in relation to this whole project and the adverse environmental implications."

‘My dad doesn’t want to see where he’s worked all his life destroyed’

Case Study: James Montgomery (92) and Ian Montgomery (55).

The Montgomery family has lived and farmed land in the Boghill Road area for more than five generations — “as long as records go back”.

“We’ve been farming the land since before I was born — and my father before me, and his father before him. We go back generations,” beef farmer Ian told the Belfast Telegraph.

James Montgomery (92) and his son Ian (55) oppose Arc21’s planned waste incinerator.

Their land is adjacent to the proposed site at Hightown Quarry on Boghill Road and their bungalow would overlook the Wembley-sized waste plant.

Mr Montgomery felt “greatly annoyed” on receiving letters about the potential vesting of his land.

“We don’t want to sell our land — it has been in our family for generations and we want to keep it that way. There are alternatives, so why not use them?” said Ian.

He insisted that the land’s value was irrelevant to the family. “Everybody is against this. Money doesn’t come into the equation. We want to keep the countryside as it is and protect it,” said Ian.

“We utterly oppose the prospect of the vesting of any of our lands and will not allow Arc21 to ride roughshod over the interests of local people in order to push through its monstrous incinerator proposal which is ill-conceived and unnecessary in the first place.”

Mr Montgomery’s 92-year-old father is also enraged by Arc21’s proposal. “My dad is greatly annoyed about the plan because he feels the land is countryside that should not be destroyed; that we should be protecting our environment, not destroying it,” he said.

“They’re going to make a new big road up to the site and we’re going to have to live with that — all the dust, the dirt, the congestion, all the fumes from the traffic. It’s not fair.

“It makes me feel sad and sick, really. I’m just devastated and so is my father. He doesn’t want to see where he has worked all his life destroyed.

“He wants the farm to be viable for future next generations to carry on. His four daughters have signed the petition against the waste incinerator.”

“Arc21 will not take our land,” Ian added.

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